Getting to Know Dr. Camille DeClementi
This Sunday may be the start of National Poison Prevention Week, but the folks at the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (APCC) work ’round the clock (literally!) to educate pet owners and professionals about poison prevention. Camille DeClementi, VMD, Senior Director of Animal Health Services at the APCC—and board-certified diplomate of the American Board of Veterinary Toxicology and the American Board of Toxicology—tells you what you (and your community) need to know.
Shelters’ Edge: What’s a typical day for you at the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center?
Dr. DeClementi: During a typical shift I work with 10 to 15 colleagues, including other veterinarians, veterinary technicians and veterinary assistants. Our center answers about 550 calls per day. About 70% are from animal owners and about 30% are from veterinarians or their staff members. The majority of our calls are regarding dogs and cats, but we also take calls on other species, including birds, pocket pets, horses, cows, goats, pigs, fish, non-human primates and wildlife. In 2010, we helped animals in 61 different countries!
Shelters’ Edge: Tell us about your most memorable case.
Dr. DeClementi: In my 11 years working in the APCC, we have had some very interesting cases—including a dolphin who ingested a battery, a herd of cattle poisoned by nitrates in their water, cats who’d had Minoxidil applied to them to help their hair grow back, and dogs who became very ill after ingesting sugar-free gum containing xylitol.
But the most gratifying cases for me are those where we help the animal and are able to calm the owner. I recently took a call from a veterinarian who brought a bottle of medication home and placed it on the counter, then left the house. When he came home he found that his two dogs had eaten the entire bottle. He was truly panicked when he called, and thought his actions were going to lead to the death of his companions. I was able to talk him through treating his dogs and assure him that with appropriate and aggressive treatment that I expected they would do just fine. His relief and gratitude made that a memorable case for me.
Shelters’ Edge: How does the APCC work with shelters?
Dr. DeClementi: The APCC occasionally receives calls from shelter employees if an animal in their care has been exposed to a potentially poisonous substance. Our employees have lectured at shelter conferences on various topics, including avoiding toxicity from the use of cleaning products in shelters, insecticides and worming products. Some shelters include APCC materials including refrigerator magnets in their adoption packs.
Shelters’ Edge: What’s the most important thing shelters can tell adopters about poison prevention for pets?
Dr. DeClementi: Adopters should keep in mind that having a dog in the house is like having a toddler who can chew anything up! And cats can get up on most any surface and knock things down. Some pets may even be more at risk than children because, unlike children, they are commonly left unattended. They are also likely to chew open some containers, including those considered child-safe. The ASPCA website has additional information regarding poison prevention.
Shelter employees should also mention that it is often not safe to use a product on an animal species for which it is not intended. For example, using a concentrated permethrin flea product labeled for dogs could prove deadly if used on a cat.
What are your thoughts and questions for Dr. DeClementi? Please type them in the comment box.
Tags: Shelter Health